Systematic Decision Making and Growth in Reading in High-Stakes Accountability Systems
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The intense focus on standards and accountability is rapidly altering the education environment. Often the gauge for measuring school effectiveness is performance on high- stake state tests. In this retrospective cohort comparison study, I observe the relation between the use of curriculum-based measures (CBMs) for reading and change on a state test for reading after implementation of systematic decision making (SDM). Over a span of three years, two student cohorts in two elementary schools were observed. In each two-year cohort, students began in third and then moved to fourth grade: Cohort One (2009 - 2011) and Cohort Two (2010 - 2012). Both cohorts participated in fall, winter, and spring [F-W-S] benchmark screening for Passage Reading Fluency (PRF) and took a state test. Additionally, during the 2011-2012 academic year, SDM was implemented for Cohort Two using reading CBMs. This study addressed three questions: (a) What is the affect on reading growth (OAKS-Reading) in the context of SDM with CBMs? (b) What is the correlation between [F-W-S] PRF and OAKS Reading? and (c) What is the relation between within-year growth rates for students at risk and not at risk in the context of SDM with CBMs? I used an independent samples t-test to examine the across year change in reading for both cohorts (OAKS-Reading) to determine whether the implementation of SDM resulted in a significant difference between cohorts. For Cohort Two (using a SDM model), I correlated benchmark screening within-year measures (easyCBM) and OAKS Reading. Finally, I calculated growth rates for at-risk and not-at-risk students within a SDM model to examine whether that model demonstrated evidence of accelerated growth in at-risk students relative to their not-at-risk peers. Results did not indicate a strong relation between SDM and the large-scale, outcome assessment (OAKS-Reading). A Pearson product-moment correlation indicated a strong positive correlation between the formative measure PRF and the large-scale, outcome assessment OAKS-Reading. Results showed both risk categories had accelerated growth in reading fluency between fall and winter compared to between winter and spring. Implications for school practice and research are discussed.